- MAC Conference postpones fall seasons all sports- EMU's Scott Weatherbee on the MAC announcement and athletes concerns
- Harvick Sweeps at MIS (Motorsports Pg. and Below
- Brad Keselowski presser talking about his new deal and Covid-19 racing MIS Doubleheader (Below)
- Ally Challenge-Jim Furyk becomes 18th PGA Legends Tour player to win 1st start. (MGS Pg.)
- Darren McCarty talks about his golf obsession and how the Red Wings were double dipping during Cup years. (MGS)
- Michigan Golf Scene: Flint Golf Club Drone View of the three holes that will determine Michigan PGA Championship
- NASCAR-Byron's Erik Jones out at Joe Gibbs racing (Below)
EMU's Scott Weatherbee on the MAC announcement and athletes concerns
The Ally Challenge Goes to Jim Furyk
By Steve Sweitzer-August 2, 2020
KEVIN HARVICK FINISHES SWEEP OF CUP SERIES DOUBLEHEADER AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY Wins for 3rd straight time at MIS; Ford takes home Michigan Heritage Trophy
BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 9, 2020) – One venue, two days, two races, two wins. That was Kevin Harvick’s weekend after capturing the NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, and completing the weekend sweep of the Cup Series doubleheader.
With Harvick’s victories, Ford took home the Michigan Heritage Trophy for 2020, symbolic of the top OEM at Michigan International Speedway. Today’s win was Ford’s 41st at MIS and the 53rd by Ford Motor Company (12 wins by Mercury). It also was Ford’s sixth straight win, their longest in the Irish Hills.
Harvick’s victory Sunday was somewhat reminiscent of his triumph on Saturday in the FireKeepers Casino 400. He led a total of 90 of the 156-lap race Sunday after being at the head of the pack for 92 laps Saturday. He won each of the first two stages Saturday and secured the second stage Sunday, giving him five stage wins on the year.
Harvick’s win was his 55th in the NASCAR Cup Series, as he surpassed Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 11th on the all-time list. In addition, Harvick became the first driver to win back-to-back races at the same track on consecutive days in the NASCAR Cup Series. The last driver to win Cup races on consecutive days was Hall of Famer Richard Petty in 1971 (July 14 & 15 at Islip and Saratoga).
Even with all of his success in his career and particularly in 2020 – a season in which he now owns a Cup Series-best six victories – Harvick deflects a good portion of the credit to his team.
“It drives you,” Harvick said of his No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang. “I think when you look at my team we’ve been together for going on seven years now and you look at the confidence everybody has in each other. The details of the race cars and the thought of everything that goes into everything that we do is untouchable. That’s what it takes are details to make these race cars go fast.”
Clint Bowyer led the first 43 laps of the race, including a win in Stage 1. After that however, Harvick would go on to lead 90 of the final 113 laps. Stewart-Haas racing teammate Aric Almirola challenged Harvick briefly, as he led nine laps before relinquishing the lead to Harvick, who finished it off by leading the way for the final 41 laps. Almirola finished sixth.
Denny Hamlin, one of three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to finish among the top-4, looked as though he had a chance to overtake Harvick over the final several laps, but could just not make up ground, as he was edged out by .093 seconds.
“Just needed to maneuver a little bit better and I think that we could be a little better,” Hamlin said. “Overall, our car handled well. Just needed a little more speed there and a little bit more handling to pass. Obviously, I thought we were definitely the fastest car by running him (Kevin Harvick) down there.”
Martin Truex Jr. produced a third-place finish for the second straight day.
“We don’t do anything easy, that’s for sure,” Truex said. “We were awful at the start of the race. I don’t know, we didn’t make a lot of changes from yesterday. We tried to do different things to try to get better. We definitely were worse. Just have to grind them out, that’s what we do. It’s good to be grinding out top-three finishes, that’s what the Playoffs are all about. We need to get some more points before that starts.”
Sunday’s win was a little different for Harvick in that he secured the Michigan Heritage Trophy for Ford. He knew coming in that it was an extremely important piece of the weekend for his manufacturer.
“Well, when you start getting texts from Edsel Ford on how important the weekend is, you answer those,” Harvick said. “I’ve been around Ford for several years now and you understand the importance of winning at Michigan. The energy and effort that they not only put into our cars, but that they put into the engines at Roush Yates. This is the place - right behind Daytona - that everybody from Ford wants to win at.”
Kyle Busch (4th) and Joey Logano (5th) completed the top-5. For the second day in-a-row, Christopher Bell (17th) was the race’s highest finishing rookie.
Timing on Jones announcement stings, but a new opportunity might be best
It’s not the homecoming Erik Jones expected.
Just days before NASCAR returned to the Wolverine State for this weekend’s races at Michigan Speedway, word leaked on the internet that the 24-year-old’s contract would not be renewed at Joe Gibbs Racing.
JGR confirmed the story later Thursday night. Christopher Bell, his fellow Toyota development driver, is expected to replace Jones in the No. 20 team in 2021.
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity that JGR provided me with over the last four years and I wish the team nothing but success and good fortune,” Jones said in the team release. “JGR gave me a solid foundation from which to go out and compete at the highest level and I look forward to building on that in the years to come.”
The Byron, Michigan, racer, the first in a long and tremendously successful list of Toyota proteges, executed the perfect audition when he was just 16 by beating Kyle Busch in the 2012 Snowball Derby at 5 Flags Speedway. Soon after, Jones was recruited by Toyota.
Jones’ meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks included wins in ARCA and then in the Truck Series—in his fifth start. He was both the youngest driver to win his first race and the championship in the Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series, at ages 17 and 19, respectively. His truck title came during his first full season on the tour.
Nine races into his Xfinity Series experience, Jones won from the pole at Texas Motor Speedway in the 2015 spring race. The following week, he was recruited to sub for an ailing Denny Hamlin at in the No. 11 Cup car after Hamlin suffered neck spasms during a lengthy rain delay at Bristol. Two years later, Jones graduated to a second car at Furniture Row Racing. The situation was far from ideal. Still, in a freshman class that included Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon and Corey LaJoie, Jones won 2017 rookie honors handily.
Once he joined the JGR fold in 2018, Jones scored his first Cup win at the July Daytona race. He doubled his top-five results, finished half of his starts in the top 10 and qualified for the Playoffs. In 2019, Jones won again—this time in the prestigious Southern 500 at Darlington—and earned a one-year extension on his contract, even though Bell waiting in the wings as the next young, hot prospect in the Toyota camp.
Although Jones started the 2020 season by winning the Busch Clash at Daytona, he’s currently 18th in the standings after five top fives and eight top 10s in 20 starts. Since joining JGR, Jones has been overshadowed by veteran teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. His results were better than those of Daniel Suarez during their two seasons together at JGR. Though Busch has yet to win in 2020, Hamlin has won a fourth of this year’s Cup races. Martin Truex Jr. won at Martinsville in June.
Sure, Jones has endured his share of bad luck. But compared with some of his 20-something peers on the Cup tour, Jones has more top-five and top-10 finishes than Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon or Bell.
Certainly, Bell is a once-in-a-generational talent in whom Toyota has invested handsomely. Under the direction of Jason Ratcliff, who also guided Jones earlier in his career, Bell has made gains in the No. 95 Toyota. His true potential won't become evident until he's under JGR’s roof.
Perennially, there has been a stark contrast between Jones and the other top Gibbs’ drivers in equal equipment. When drivers such as Carl Edwards or Matt Kenseth entered the stable, both were able to hold their own and win immediately.
That’s not to say that Jones won’t flourish in a different environment, as Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch did when they left their previous employers for a fresh start. I would bet on it.
While Bubba Wallace is the frontrunner for the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and LaJoie appears headed to the No. 37 JTG Daugherty team, and the replacement plans for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports seat have yet to be determined, Jones could enter any of those situations and make a significant difference.
Brad Keselowski presser talking about his new deal and Covid-19 racing MIS Doubleheader
Notes from Presser